Jallikattu fallout and future course of action

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After  waging a legal war for almost 10 years, the Animal Welfare Board of  India (AWBI) and animal welfare activists have won their case against  “animal sports” such as Jallikattu, Rekla (bullock-cart race)  etc., involving bulls. A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice KS  Radhakrishnan and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, in a landmark  judgment on 7 May 2014, banned Jallikattu, Rekla and other such  ‘sports’. The SC also struck down the “Tamil Nadu Regulation of  Jallikattu Act 2009” [1]. Subsequently on June 22, the Madurai  Bench of Madras High Court dismissed 18 petitions, pending from 2009,  which sought permission to conduct Jallikattu in the State in the  light of the Supreme Court’s ban.

Since  then, a debate has raged between supporters and opponents of the ban,  and as there are valid points on both sides, it is imperative to have  a clear understanding of the issue and to plan the future course of  action. The Bull Fight is a traditional sport as evidenced by Seals  excavated at Mohenjo-daro and by scriptures such as Bhagvatam; over  time the sport got restricted to certain parts of the country and  moved from villages to towns and cities. It has become a “free for  all” sport, no longer restricted to the traditional agriculturist  community

The legal process

For  over three decades, the South Indian Humanitarian League and Blue  Cross of India petitioned the Petitions’ Committee of the TN state  legislature to ban Jallikattu and other sports using bulls. In 2004,  hearing a petition seeking permission for conducting Rekla Race,  Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifulla permitted the “sport” with a rider  that the organisers should cause no injury to the bulls. The  petitioner had to approach the Madurai Bench of the Madras High  Court, as the Ramanathapuram Police had refused permission earlier.

In  2006, another petitioner approached the Madurai Bench for the same  reason; another petition in the same court was filed by the father of  a man who was killed during Jallikattu the previous year. Taking note  of the purview of the PCA Act in its entirety, Justice R Banumathi  issued an order banning all types of “sports” namely Jallikattu,  Rekla Race, and other such “sports” causing cruelty to animals.

When  the petitioner seeking permission appealed against the single judge’s  order, a division bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and PPS  Janarthana Raja heard the appeal on 9 March 2007 and set aside the  single judge’s order. The bench allowed Jallikattu with conditions  which applied to ‘Performing Animals’ under the PCA Act. These  were –
- Owners of bulls must register their animals with the Animal Welfare Board of India one month in advance
- Bulls must be certified by a vet as being healthy and fit to be allowed to participate in the events lasting several months across several districts of Tamil Nadu
- At every event bull tamers will be tested by doctors for alcohol consumption
- Bulls should not be given alcohol prior to the event
- Bulls must not be administered steroids and veterinary doctors stationed at the venue must ensure that bulls have not been abused by owners rubbing chilly-powder, tobacco and mud in their      eyes, tails and genitals
- All events must receive written permission from the      local magistrate

The  State Government was made a respondent and the division bench  stipulated monitoring of Jallikattu by the local magistrate, district  collector, veterinary officers, AWBI volunteers and police; the High  Court placed bulls on the list of ‘Performing Animals’ on its  own. As the organisers and State Government were desperate to conduct  the “sport” they readily agreed to the classification of bulls as  performing animals and also to comply with the conditions posed by  the High Court. It bears mention that the Tamil Nadu Regulation of  Jallikattu Act (2009), which impacts upon the PCA Act (1960) which is  a Central act, has not received Presidential assent yet.

The  AWBI, a statutory body, disagreed with the classification of bull as  ‘performing animal’ and took the case to the Supreme Court  seeking an immediate stay on the order of the division bench and  demanding a complete ban on Jallikattu. Thereafter, on July 27, 2007  the Supreme Court in an interim order stayed the order of the  division bench of the Madras High Court.

However,  on January 11, 2008 the Supreme Court pronounced its final order by  banning Jallikattu but permitting Rekla race. The bench comprising  Justices RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik permitted Rekla because the  AWBI had, by lapse, sought banning of only Jallikattu. When the State  Government filed a Revision Petition on 13 January 2008, the same  bench heard it and delivered an interim order allowing Jallikattu to  be held as part of Pongal celebrations, with some ‘conditions’.  The AWBI promptly filed another Special Leave Petition seeking  restoration of the earlier order dated 11 January 2008.

Even  as the case was dragging in the apex court, the State Government  tabled the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Bill in the Assembly; it  was unanimously passed as Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009.  But the government failed to obtain Presidential assent. Thereafter,  the same bench of the Supreme Court gave interim orders in 2010 and  2011 allowing Jallikattu with conditions and directing the  authorities to ‘monitor’ the ‘sport’.

Meanwhile,  Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, in July  2011, included Bulls on the list of animals which may not be deemed  to be Performing Animals and may therefore not be allowed to be  trained, exhibited or used in sport. The ministry added that Bulls  meant cows, progeny of cows, bulls, buffalo and oxen including  castrated and not castrated ones.

Armed  with the notification of MOE&F, AWBI and animal welfare activist  Radha Rajan filed separate petitions in the Madurai Bench of the  Madras High court seeking a ban on Jallikattu. On 12 January 2012 the  Bench comprising Justices Chitra Venkataraman and R Karuppaiah heard  the matter, but the government advocates managed to secure another  day for the government to be heard again. As the State’s ruling  party was also partner at the Center, the Union Government’s  Advocate General somehow failed to defend the notification of the  MOE&F. The State Government also succeeded in allowing the  ‘sport’ to be conducted, as usual with ‘conditions’ (that  were never followed) and ‘monitoring’ (that was never done with  the seriousness it required).

Continuing  its relentless efforts, the AWBI monitored and observed the conduct  of Jallikattu in 2012 and 2013 and prepared solid documentation with  photographs and videographs and submitted its report to the Supreme  Court (supporters argue that such cruelties stopped after 2008). The  AWBI meticulously detailed the entire process of Jallikattu, the  cruelties to which the bulls are subjected and how Jallikattu was  violative of various sections of the PCA Act. A petition was filed by  PETA against the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009.

The  organisers of Jallikattu, confident of political support from the  State Government and thinking that the TNJR Act would make it easy  for them in the Supreme Court, failed to make a convincing case for  conducting Jallikattu; they did not present any documentation or  proof that there was no cruelty to the animals and proof that they  were conducting Jallikattu safely.

The  Supreme Court analysed the issue threadbare taking the PCA Act into  consideration in its entirety. It found the TNJR Act repugnant to the  PCA Act and noted that the TNJR Act had not received Presidential  Assent under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly,  it banned Jallikattu, Rekla Race and other such “sports” and  struck down the TNJR Act 2009 as null and void.

Jallikattu  - not sport but farce!

Following  the judgment, the organisers and supporters of Jallikattu are  disappointed and agitated. But the ban on the sport is of their  making! As long as Jallikattu was conducted as a village sport by the  agricultural community, with the involvement of youth from the  particular village and under the supervision of village elders and  leaders of the said village, it did not attract attention, good or  bad. It had its own typical cultural flair and religious flavour; it  was traditional in the true sense of the word.

But  once the sport moved to towns and cities and suffered  commercialization (prize money, betting, etc.), due to greed for  money and fame by organisers and community leaders, it lost its  uniqueness. Even the “brave” players taking part in taming the  bulls are mostly from towns and cities, not rural areas. They are  akin to the mad bike racers we see on city roads.

The  cruelty inflicted upon the hapless animals is beyond expression.  Cutting the ear, pulling, twisting and biting the tail, soiling the  tail and hind legs with faeces, making them stand for hours, causing  injuries by chasing them and hitting and poking them with sticks and  knives, applying irritants into their eyes and noses, using tight and  thick nose-ropes, keeping them in cramped conditions without  sufficient food and water, forcing them to drink liquor and even  spectators beating them are some of the cruelties detailed with  photographic and videographic evidence in the AWBI report, four years  after the proclamation of TNJR Act by Tamil Nadu government. [2]

The  day Jallikattu moved from villages to towns and cities, far away from  the temples, it lost its sanctity and traditional fervour and gained  in commercial flavour in the process. The greed for money and fame  increased and commitment to tradition decreased. The rural  traditional sport became an urban and sub-urban commercial  entertainment, showing scant regard for the well being of animals and  humans. We have come across deaths of scores of players and  spectators over the years. Even during the so-called training period,  the bulls are subjected to cruelties such as forcing it to thrash its  head and horns repeatedly against the ground, tying it to two poles  tightly immobilizing it, etc. [3]

The  bulls were viewed and treated as objects or instruments of  entertainment instead of living beings. This forced the AWBI and  animal welfare activists to act against this farce and the rest is  history.

Arguments  for Jallikattu, a travesty!

In  the name of tradition, it is not clear if the organisers included  Indus Valley Seals, verses from Bhagvatam and other archaeological  and literary evidences in their defense before the Supreme Court. The  argument that twisting tails, cutting ears and using nose-ropes are  not cruelties will not cut ice with the Court of law, which views the  case under the PCA Act. The organisers had to defend their case under  the purview of the PCA Act. They were not able to present a sound  defence, because they violated conditions even in 2012 and 2013, four  years after these were imposed by the Supreme Court.

It  is argued by organisers and supporters of Jallikattu that the bulls  are sent for slaughter due to the ban of the sport. They claim that  the bull is reared with love and affection as a member of the family;  taken care of by feeding highly nutritious food with special  attention for its well being; and that as much as Rs.500/- per day is  spent on the bull, all year round. When they can send their own  family member to the slaughter house just because Jallikattu is  banned, is not the claim of taking care of the bull with love and  affection farcical? Doesn’t this prove that they are for money  only? Are they not spending so much because the Jallikattu bull’s  market rate is over Rs one lakh?

They  argue that Jallikattu helps them in protection, preservation and  breeding of native cattle. If they really want to protect and  preserve native breeds, why should they send the bulls for slaughter  just because the sport is banned? Is Jallikattu the only option to  breed native cattle? Can’t they use them for breeding, farming and  producing biogas, organic manure and other dung-based products?

The  day the agriculturist replaced bulls with tractors, he lost his  credibility; exposed his avarice. The day he started compromising on  the genuine tradition of Jallikattu and made it a commercial sport,  inflicting pain on hapless animals, he lost his ground for arguments.  It is a farce that the bulls are sold for slaughter only after the  ban on Jallikattu. Selling male progeny has been happening for years!  As he has started selling them for slaughter, he can no more claim  that he is passionate about breeding them.

Blaming  animal welfare activists

Jallikattu  organisers and supporters alleged that animal welfare activists were  paid by foreign NGOs backed by the Church. They must understand that  there is nothing Christian about the AWBI or animal welfare  activists, majority of whom are Hindu. Both have an impressive track  record in the cause of animal welfare. When Churches are conducting  Jallikattu, where is the question of these activists being paid by  the Church? Even genuine Hindu activists, who have been serving the  cause of animal welfare for decades, have been blamed for being  associated with PETA and paid by Christian NGOs!

Jallikattu  supporters question why animal welfare activists are not fighting  against slaughter of cattle, cattle trafficking, circus, etc. This is  an ill-informed argument. Animal welfare activists are fighting  against all forms of cruelties perpetrated on animals.

First,  with regards to Circus, the Ministry Environment and Forests issued a  second notification dated 14-10-1998 (Annexure-1)4 under Section 22  of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 putting restriction  on exhibition or training of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and  lions with effect from the date of publication of the notification.  Since then, the number of Circus companies has been on the decline.

Second,  regarding slaughter houses, the Supreme Court delivered an excellent  order [4] on 23 August 2012 directing both the Central and State  Governments to ensure that slaughter houses adhere to the guidelines  prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board, involving the  Departments of Health, Animal Husbandry and Labour, State Police,  Food Safety Commissioner, State Pollution Control Board, State Animal  Welfare Board and two prominent persons nominated by the State  Government.

Third,  regarding Cattle Trafficking, animal welfare activists have worked  diligently with limited resources. Ever since a team of committed  activists led by Radha Rajan and SV Badri released a documentary  “Their Last Journey – Cattle Trafficking  to Kerala” [5], huge awareness has been  created on the issue and many activists have formed their own teams  across Tamil Nadu to serve the noble cause. In other States too,  activists are working to stop cattle trafficking.

All  animals are the same for animal welfare activists; they do not  discriminate between Desi Cow and Jersey Cow, dog and cat, hen and  peacock, but work for the protection and welfare of all. Working for  animal welfare is not easy; it requires man power, money power,  material power, and above all, support from the State administration  and Police. Waging a legal war must also be within the realms of Law  and Constitution. Within their capacities and limitations, they are  doing a great job.

Those  who fought against Jallikattu are also fighting against circuses,  against cattle trafficking, against cow slaughter, against the  government’s religious endowment departments for the welfare of  temple cows; they will also fight for the protection and breeding of  Native cattle!

The  Christian play

Regarding  churches conducting Jallikattu, it is claimed that churches have been  conducting this sport in certain parts of Tamil Nadu on the eve of  St. Antony’s Festival for centuries! [6] It is a great blunder that  Hindus allowed the church to hijack this sport. During the current  year when the Church organized Jallikattu in Dindukkal, a 12 year old  boy was killed and 23 others injured! [7] The agricultural community  should have protested against the churches and safeguarded the  sanctity of this Hindu sport. Having allowed the church to conduct  Jallikattu, can the argument that banning Jallikattu hurts Hindu  religious sentiments stand scrutiny?

Even  in the present circumstances, the Hindu agriculturists did not fight  for the Hinduness of Jallikattu as they feared the Dravidian  Government would not support them. The DMK regime supported  Jallikattu and went to the extent of making a separate law for it,  not in the interest of Hindu religion or Tamil culture, but because  it brings money to its coffers and the church is also involved. This  was the regime that changed the traditional Tamil New Year, showing  scant regard to Hindu religion and Tamil culture. The pathetic  condition of cows and the gaushalas maintained by the HR&CE Department shows the scant regard the  government has for religious tradition and sentiments of Hindus!

In  a recently published Tamil article by Chennai-based Vedic Science  Research Center, an author named Aegan [8] has explained in detail  about the attempts being made by Christian priests to purchase native  breeds of cattle from farmers in Erode, in order to use them to  produce cross-breeds and curtail the growth of native breeds. The  article cites evidence that these priests have been indulging in this  nefarious activity with the active connivance of the officers of a  nationalized bank. It is a very serious issue and the agricultural  community must immediately bring it to the notice of the Government  and take it up with the concerned banks’ authorities. They must  ensure this practice does not spread to other parts of Tamil Nadu,  like they allowed the church to hijack Jallikattu.

What  has St. Antony got to do with Jallikattu? It is clearly an  “Inculturation” technique. Hence, it is imperative that the Hindu  agricultural community think of a strategy to take the rural sport  back to the villages with religious and cultural flavour, as a  ‘Review Petition’ against the ban is most likely to be rejected.

Hindu  perspective

It  is very unfortunate that this issue has created a rift among Hindus.  Supporters of the ban feel that the present day Jallikattu is a  mockery of the village sport and more commercial and entertainment  than tradition and culture. This is akin to the debate on  vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism among Hindus. It is a fact that  the Maharishis of Vedic times took some amount of ‘pashu’ as ‘prashad’ after  performing ‘yagnyas’.  But over the centuries, Vedic Brahmins have put an end to animal  sacrifice in yagnyas,  barring very rare occasions like Vajapayee yagnyas.  But none of the Hindu scriptures have strictly enforced vegetarianism  for Hindus.

The  same is the case with animal sacrifices during Temple festivals,  particularly the village temples, where the Grama Devata is served  Naivedya by sacrificing animals and birds. Here also we have two  sections of Hindus, one for and one against the tradition of animal  sacrifice. The point of contention is that the practice of eating  non-vegetarian food has become almost a daily affair, unlike the days  when it was only during festival occasions and family / community  celebrations. Over the years, beef eating has also increased manifold  among Hindus and has probably led people to view animals as mere  products and not living beings.

Objectives  and Plans

This  Hindu nation has a time tested tradition of worshipping Nature. Our  livelihood was in consonance with nature. Natural resources are God’s  gift to mankind. But as we started deviating from the tradition of  worshipping nature and showing scant regard for nature, we started  facing problems. As we modernised our agricultural practices, we  failed to strike a balance, resulting in the destruction of our  cattle wealth. Similarly, village oriented sports like Jallikattu  have lost the traditional sanctity as they became commericalised for  money and entertainment. The traditional practice of daily  worshipping cattle has become a formal annual event, resulting in  cattle being viewed as commodities. It is high time the depletion of  cattle wealth stopped and steps taken to increase it.

The  following objectives are in order:
1. To work towards bringing a ban on Cow Slaughter
2. To stop Cattle Trafficking
3. To improve breeding of native varieties of cattle
4. To sustain traditional agricultural practices, organic      farming, etc.
5. To take back the traditional sports to villages in a      new form with truly religious flavor.

The  prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principles of State  Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution: “The State  shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on  modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for  preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of  cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”.

Yet  successive governments have failed the nation on the issue of banning  cattle slaughter. Successive governments have also failed to check  and control the mushrooming of hundreds of thousands of illegal  slaughter houses, leading to a progression of meat industry resulting  in India becoming the world’s highest exporter of beef, a shameful  distinction!

For  a Dharmic nation that worships Cow and its progeny, leading the world  in exporting their meat is not only shameful but sinful. The present  ruling party at the Centre stated in its election manifesto that it  would reverse the so-called Pink Revolution by coming down heavily on  slaughter and trafficking of cattle.

Right  thinking citizens should support Hindu organizations, which must work  together for this noble cause by coordinating with the Union  Government to ban cow slaughter and export of beef. In accordance  with the Directive Principles, the menace of cattle trafficking must  also end. For this, we need more Gaushalas.

Gaushalas  can be set up in every major town and city along with a bio-gas plant  in every Gaushala; they could be placed under the supervision of  temples, possibly on land owned by temples. Centers can be set up in  each district to manufacture organic manure, cosmetics and other  Ayurvedic products using cattle dung and urine procured from the  Gaushalas.

District-wise  Cattle Protection Teams could be formed and connected through a  network to stop cattle trafficking and keep a watch on temple  gaushalas. Support from authorities like State Police, SPCA and AWBI  must be sought to stop cattle trafficking so that the Transportation  of Animals Rules are thoroughly implemented.

Special  care must be taken to preserve the native breeds and increase their  breeding by supporting farmers who preserve native breeds. Animal  husbandry departments must make regular supply of cattle feed at  subsidised rates for these farmers and gaushalas.

As  organic farming spreads with general awareness of the ill-effects of  chemical fertilizers and pesticides, organic manure will find a ready  market, leading to a return to traditional organic farming methods.  Strategic marketing of cosmetics and Ayurvedic products from cow  produce will help in the sustenance of native cattle breeds,  traditional agriculture and organic farming.

Given  our glorious tradition of worshipping cattle, we may adopt new forms  to celebrate religious occasions with our cattle wealth. Occasions  like Krishna Jayanti and Nandi Jayanti could be celebrated in every  village by bringing cows and bulls to the temples, akin to the  Arattupuzha Pooram Festival (Thirissur) where elephants are lined up.  The people can perform Gau-Puja and Rishab-Puja and individual  farmers can be awarded for breeding native cows and bulls during the  occasion. Every Shiva temple can have a procession of deities placed  on Vrishaba Vahanam during Utsavams. Reclaiming the divinity of  cattle can check the Church which has already hijacked the  Jallikattu, which is no more thanks to the Supreme Court.

We  must remember that it is we who made non-vegetarian diet more  frequent than vegetarian diet; we who opted for tractors in place of  bulls for farming; we who promoted a small time village Jallikattu as  big time entertainment; we who brought Jallikattu from villages to  towns and cities and inflicted barbaric cruelties on bulls in the  name of demonstrating our valour; we who promoted chemical  fertilisers and disowned organic manure; we who forgot the sanctity  attached to agricultural festivals; we who promoted trafficking of  cattle, slaughter of cattle and export of beef. Let us correct  ourselves and serve the noble cause of preserving our cattle wealth!

References:
1] Supreme Court Order banning Jallikattu
2] The art of taming the bull
3] Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – Notification
4] Supreme Court Directions on Slaughter Houses Dated 23.08-2013
5] Their Last Journey – Cattle Trafficking to Kerala
6] HC permits Jallikattu during church festival
7] 12-yr-old Killed in Jallikattu near Dindigul
8] http://goo.gl/exi6WR

First  published http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=3251